A female client in Colombia, a senior insurance executive, told me recently that she wears her favorite pearl necklace and a silk blouse every time she fires up her video to join a meeting. Another mid-level manager in healthcare with a dozen direct reports throughout Latin America, said she dresses from head to toe for Zoom as if she were back at the office. A male CEO in fintech wears a shirt and tie without fail to every Teams call.
All three recognize that what they wear brings their confidence and executive presence to another level. Large numbers of office workers continue to work remotely with video conferencing at the heart of the workday. So, the image you project can be critical to your success.
Clothes are powerful visual representations of poise and personality. The clothes we wear can make us feel more competent and ready to tackle daily challenges and opportunities. Business professionals have heard the “dress for success” mantra throughout their entire careers. In fact, some global organizations have elevated the importance of personal appearance to a galactic scale with dress codes that dictate even the smallest details of grooming and wardrobe. Swiss Bank UBS published a 44-page handbook that went viral some years ago. Among the nuggets of wisdom therein: “Adopting impeccable behavior extends to impeccable presentation.” And “the garment is a critical form of non-verbal communication.”
Translated to today’s video-centric workplace, these directives couldn’t be timelier. Yet, why do many of you still resist bringing these best practices to your professional lives online? I am repeatedly saddened but not surprised to see baggy T-shirts, tank tops and baseball caps when I do public workshops on Zoom.
Like it or not, wardrobe communicates volumes about you as a person. Your clothes tell a story about you, what you do and how you do it. It’s not so much about fashion than about communicating who you are consciously or unconsciously by your choices. And this matters greatly though you may be visible on camera only from waist level to the top of your head.
The first seven seconds forge the first impression.
Research shows that we form impressions about other people within the first seven seconds of contact. We continually judge books by their covers, and this is no different. Most often, we don’t have a second chance to make a great first impression. So, the way you look shapes how you will be perceived. The first-impression effect on video calls is even more pronounced due to the immersive nature of the technology. We look at each other more intensely than we would normally do in physical spaces.
When you’re dressing or grooming for a video meeting, consider what it says about you and whether it’s in line with the message you want to convey. Context is key here: what is your role, your industry, and your audience? As a rule of thumb, dressing for success on video is a mix of how it makes you feel and the image you want to project. The inner and outer you, combined with your expertise and personality, work to inspire confidence, built trust, and boost your credibility.
Even eyeglasses speak volumes about you.
Eyeglasses are one of the first things people notice about you. And with frames available today in a wide variety of colors and designs, you can make a statement without uttering a word. Colorful frames signal someone who is creative, bold, and outgoing. Thin black frames go largely to a young, hipster crowd who want to come across as opinionated and trendy. Classic aviator frames are for the adventurous, active person who is not afraid to live for the moment.
Fake glasses (with or without a lens) have become an accessory for fashionistas who want to complete their perfect look. For some people, eyeglasses have become a brand signature. Take my friend, Phil Gerbyshak, speaker, sales expert, corporate sales trainer, and small business coach. Phil owns 19 pairs of colorful frames. He is brilliant, engaging, fun, and impactful; and his bespectacled appearance aligns perfectly with his professional profile.
I am not going to get into the tips and tricks to avoid eyeglass glare on Zoom in this post. But if you are wondering how to deal with this pesky problem that will dampen your online style, read my blogpost on the topic.
What you wear may impact how you think.
Dressing right can affect your self-confidence and how others perceive you. But your style does more than just send messages to your mind or to others. Research shows it can impact how you think and process information. Professional dress, one study found, increases abstract thinking, and gives people a broader professional perspective. So, the pearl necklace or that tie may make you appear more reliable while giving you an intellectual advantage at the same time.
Color impacts how you are perceived and believed.
Wardrobe colors hold meaning and symbolism in the physical world. Similarly, in the virtual world, the color of your clothing can set you apart, complement your story and convey subliminal messages. What you wear for a new business presentation, a job interview, a press conference, or shareholder meeting can signal your values and world view.
Some colors show up better than others on Zoom and streaming calls in general. For example, red, orange, cobalt blue, fuchsia and purple are vibrant colors that hold up well. The colors you wear can boost your spirits and make you feel more energetic and zestful. Choose wisely.
Wardrobe is but one of your video ASSETs.
Your appearance is one of the four essential ingredients of success on video calls. I call these ASSETs: Appearance, Staging and Styling, Energy and Technology.
Your video presentation ASSETs include your clothes, accessories, hairstyle, physical setting, real or virtual background, posture, body language, tone of voice, the level of energy with which you move and speak, and how well you manage the streaming technology.
Think of how you want to be perceived in any situation. Then dress, groom, and accessorize in a way that helps you mentally step into that persona.
Taking intentional command of your appearance is the first step to empower yourself, accomplish your goals, and influence others to your point of view. Pay attention to the details that define you. Choose your virtual personal styling carefully to thrive in the new normal of remote work.
Have questions for Rosemary?
Join me for Ask Rosemary Live on LinkedIn and Facebook every Tuesday in September at 12 noon ET for a lively Q+A session about how to master video conferencing for business. Do you have a burning question about Zoom or Teams? Let me help you. Follow me on LinkedIn to get notifications. Or send your questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org